Last year, the direness of medical care in Ghana was heightened significantly after several high-profile deaths due to a lack of beds in our hospitals and/or lack of a functioning emergency response system.
In the brouhaha that followed these deaths, OccupyGhana® and Citi FM petitioned the President on 27th July, 2018, to among other things, complete and operationalise several uncompleted hospitals, set up a bed management and a functioning emergency response system. Regarding the emergency response system, we did not only ask for ambulances and paramedics but we especially noted the need for the establishment of a Command Centre to coordinate and direct the supply of emergency services. We saw that as the first step in setting up an emergency response service.
In the year since then, a few of the hospitals have been completed but not fully operationalised. According to the Special Development Initiatives Ministry, 500 paramedics are being trained and due to graduate soon. The government has taken delivery of 48 ambulances out of 307 that have been budgeted for. However, since their arrival several weeks ago, they have been parked in front of the State House. Also, contrary to what the President promised last year, there is still no Command Centre. We also do not know the status of the bed management system.
Like most Ghanaians, OccupyGhana® wonders why in light of the fact that the country has so few working ambulances, these new ambulances would be left idling before the State House instead of being out in the constituencies being used to save lives. In a recent interview, even the Public Relations Officer of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) had no idea when the ambulances would be released by the government for deployment.
Finally, we heard this last Friday from the Minister of Health who said that distribution was delayed because the ambulances were being received in batches. More clarity came from the Special Development Initiatives Ministry which gave a rough timeline of when the ambulances will be deployed and why they are still parked in front of the State House. Three of the steps being taken deserve further consideration. According to the ministry the ambulances have not been deployed because:
– they are being fitted with trackers;
– receiving points are being set up; and
– paramedics are still being trained.
We can excuse the fitting of the trackers. We can even excuse the training of the paramedics. But what cannot be excused is the lack of receiving points for these ambulances.
In emergency care, the stepwise care of the critically ill or injured goes by algorithms that are known as the “ABCDs.” They are important because following them leads to the saving of lives.
In establishing an emergency service, that same order is needed to prevent chaos. Ambulances are a very important part of an emergency response service but even more important are the receiving points or what we termed “Command Centres” in our petition to the president a year ago. Once you have that, the pieces that make up an emergency response service are easier to arrange as you get them. If we had a Command Centre, we would have been ready even before the ambulances arrived. Instead, these ambulances are gracing the courtyard of the State House in all their splendour. They have become eye candy for a desolate populace whose voices precipitated a rapid acquisition of these ambulances.
This demands us to ask these very pertinent questions: